The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is a tidal island off the northeast coast of England. It is also known just as Holy Island. It constitutes the civil parish of Holy Island in Northumberland. Holy Island has a recorded history from the 6th century.
It constitutes the civil parish of Holy Island in Northumberland. Holy Island has a recorded history from the 6th century. It was an important centre of Celtic Christianity under Saints Aidan of Lindisfarne, Cuthbert, Eadfrith of Lindisfarne and Eadberht of Lindisfarne. After Viking invasions and the Norman conquest of England a priory was reestablished. A small castle was built on the island in 1550.
The island measures 3 miles (4.8 km) from east to west and 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from north to south, and comprises approximately 1,000 acres (400 ha) (4 km2) at high tide. The nearest point of the island is about 1 mile (1.6 km) from the mainland of England. The island of Lindisfarne is located along the northeast coast of England, close to the border with Scotland.
It is accessible, most times, at low tide by crossing sand and mud flats which are covered with water at high tides. These sand and mud flats carry an ancient pilgrims’ path, and in more recent times, a modern causeway. Lindisfarne is surrounded by the 8,750-acre Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve, which protects the island’s sand dunes and the adjacent intertidal habitats. As of 27 March 2011 the island had a population of 180.
Warning signs urge visitors walking to the island to keep to the marked path, check tide times and weather carefully and to seek local advice if in doubt. For drivers, tide tables are prominently displayed at both ends of the causeway and also where the Holy Island road leaves the A1 Great North Road at Beal. The causeway is generally open from about three hours after high tide until two hours before the next high tide, but the period of closure may be extended during stormy weather. Tide tables giving the safe crossing periods are published by Northumberland County council.
Despite these warnings, about one vehicle each month is stranded on the causeway, requiring rescue by HM Coastguard, Seahouses RNLI lifeboat, or RAF helicopter. A sea rescue costs approximately £1,900 (equivalent to £2,298 in 2015), while an air rescue costs more than £4,000 (equivalent to £4,839 in 2015). Local people have opposed a causeway barrier primarily on convenience grounds.
The monastery of Lindisfarne was founded by Irish monk Saint Aidan, who had been sent from Iona off the west coast of Scotland to Northumbria at the request of King Oswald. The priory was founded before the end of 634 and Aidan remained there until his death in 651. The priory remained the only seat of a bishopric in Northumbria for nearly thirty years. Finian (bishop 651–661) built a timber church “suitable for a bishop’s seat”. St. Bede however was critical of the fact that the church was not built of stone but only of hewn oak thatched with reeds. A later bishop, Eadbert removed the thatch and covered both walls and roof in lead.
The island is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the Northumberland Coast. The ruined monastery is in the care of English Heritage, which also runs a museum/visitor centre nearby. The neighbouring parish church is still in use.
Lindisfarne also has the small Lindisfarne Castle, based on a Tudor fort, which was refurbished in the Arts and Crafts style by Sir Edwin Lutyens for the editor of Country Life, Edward Hudson. Lutyens also designed the island’s Celtic-cross war-memorial on the Heugh. Lutyens’ upturned herring buses near the foreshore provided the inspiration for Spanish architect Enric Miralles’ Scottish Parliament Building in Edinburgh.
One of the most celebrated gardeners of modern times, Gertrude Jekyll (1843–1932), laid out a tiny garden just north of the castle in 1911. The castle, garden and nearby lime kilns are in the care of the National Trust and open to visitors.
Turner, Thomas Girtin and Charles Rennie Mackintosh all painted on Holy Island.
Holy Island was considered part of the Islandshire unit along with several mainland parishes. This came under the jurisdiction of the County Palatine of Durham until the Counties (Detached Parts) Act 1844.
Lindisfarne was mainly a fishing community for many years, with farming and the production of lime also of some importance.
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is well known for mead. In the medieval days when monks inhabited the island, it was thought that if the soul was in God’s keeping, the body must be fortified with Lindisfarne mead. The monks have long vanished, and the mead’s recipe remains a secret of the family which still produces it; Lindisfarne Mead is produced at St Aidan’s Winery, and sold throughout the UK and elsewhere.
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